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Living abundantly with nonmember Mates

   By Neil Earle Page 1 2 Good News Aug, 1981

Has God called you but not your husband or wife?
Has it caused problems in your Christian life?
Here's how to make the most of your situation.


It is a familiar sight in God's Church: a woman sitting in the audience during services, valiantly supervising one, two, three or more young children.

Her husband is not an usher or a deacon. He isn't up taking attendance. He isn't even in the hall. He doesn't attend services in the Worldwide Church of God. He is not a member.

Familiar as well to God's ministers is the one-on-one visit with a man struggling to explain to his wife why he has to pay three full tithes or why he would like his teenagers to attend a YOU activity.

He, like many men reading this article, is married to a woman who is not a member of the Worldwide Church of God. God has not called the member's mate, and this strains their family relationship.

Are there any principles that can help us ease the tensions in this touchy situation? Yes, once we gain God's perspective on the matter.

One young woman wrote The Good News: "Please, please, PLEASE spell out the rules for women with nonmember mates. When should we obey our husbands instead of God? Am I excused from keeping the Feast and Holy Days? Am I allowed to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Halloween and birthdays just because my husband wants me to?

"My husband would love it if I'd forget about the Bible and God. Should I make him that happy? Somewhere, somehow, I feel like I'm missing a page of instructions."

While one article can't answer every question in detail or cover all the countless, awkward problems that arise in this area, we can drink in the basic guidelines from God's Word.


Christian life a struggle

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you" (I Pet. 4:12).

Let's get our bearings as we approach this important subject. As Christians we are up against the satanic system of this world (Rom. 12:1-2). Paul plainly described the Christian life as a fight — a struggle (I Tim. 6:12).

Jesus said that only those who are violent with themselves — with their attitudes, with their past way of viewing things, with their former attachments to this society — will drive through to the Kingdom (Matt. 11:12). God is our invincible Ally if we diligently seek Him.

It was not an easy undertaking we bargained for when we gave our old selves to symbolically perish in the waters of baptism (Rom. 6:3-6). That simple but sublime ceremony drew upon us the full fire of Satan's wrath (I Pet. 5:8).

But take heart!

God called you, and He never makes a mistake (John 6:44). If He drew you to Him and convicted you by His Spirit, you can make it (John 10:27-28).

Furthermore, God knew our total backgrounds when He called us and, in His supreme wisdom, He decided, in some cases, not to call our mates. Paul referred to this when He said: "Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. . . . Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called" (I Cor. 7:18, 20).

God has decided He will not call some of our mates, at least not yet. But stop and think! Our wonderful Creator never does anything except for our very best interests in the long run (Rom. 8:28). Think about that next time you're tempted to say, oh, how I wish God would call my mate.

The simple truth is that the Christian life is a struggle for everyone. We should be happy warriors (Eph. 6:10-11).

One of Satan's favorite tactics is to unsettle, upset and confuse people through their intimate personal relationships. That is where he struck in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). That is where he often strikes today, and even those families with both husband and wife in the Church are not spared.

Yet, undoubtedly, the fact that a mate is not a member does present some peculiar challenges. To really come to grips with these challenges requires another look at the very bedrock of our commitment to God. Notice Jesus' definitive statement:

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:34-38).

Jesus Christ, who knew human nature intimately (John 2:25), candidly warned us about the hazards in the Christian life. He wants us to accept our particular "cross" in life as something to be borne gracefully, rather than have us make a shallow commitment that crumbles at the first shocks of persecution.

We are promised trouble and tribulation (Job 5:7, Acts 14:22). We can thank Christ that He inspired a whole book, the Holy Bible, to help us learn how to shoulder it.

Wouldn't it be relatively simple for the great God to convert your mate? He humbled the obstinate pharaoh and the strutting Nebuchadnezzar. In God's hands, Saul the destroyer became Paul the apostle.

There is hope! "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" (I Cor. 7:16).

A mate's conversion, however, should not be our main hope, because we should resolve to remain stedfast Christians no matter what (Job 13:15). "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches" (I Cor. 7:17).

The point is that the all-powerful, all-knowing God could have called your mate (Gen. 18:14). But He didn't. Why not?


Blessing in disguise

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (Jas. 1:2-4).

God is more concerned about our character than our comfort! His purpose is to mold us, like clay models, into the very image of Jesus Christ Himself (Jer. 18:6). The awkward, sometimes frustrating and exasperating experiences of living with a life partner who is not in the Church could be a great blessing in disguise.

Every close human relationship, including marriage, has its stresses and strains (Amos 3:3). But then, rose bushes have thorns. When a husband or wife is not in the Church, a member has an even more urgent prod to develop wisdom.

James 1:5 tells us, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Living with potential hostility or periodic alienation forces a Christian to examine himself regularly (II Cor. 13:5). Thus the human clay God is fashioning becomes a little more malleable.

Are you as a Christian striving to be a more effective peacemaker? Do you overreact? Do you automatically expect the worst and enter delicate situations bristling with pride and plain old self-righteousness?

Oh, how we all fall down from time to time (Eccl. 7:20)! The good news is that God is more willing to give us wisdom than we are to ask Him for it (Deut. 5:29).

The tragedy is that many people stumble heedlessly through life — discourteous, tactless, unteachable. Then they lament their terrible lack of success in human relationships (Prov. 5:1 1-13). Wisdom is the art of saying the right thing at the right time in just the right tone of voice and with just enough words to make the point (Prov. 10:32, 12:23, 25:11).

Yes, the sometimes thorny relationships between true Christians and their nonmember mates provide incentive in the lifelong pursuit of wisdom. Tact, diplomacy, strategy, timing — members with antagonistic mates should cultivate all these attributes; they lead to shining success in life.

Listen to these beautiful words: "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (Jas. 3:17-18).

The onus is clearly upon us as members to weed out destructive anger (Prov. 29:22). The carnal, almost irresistible pleasure of striking back, retaliating by word or deed, is not worth the price paid in severed relationships.

It's so hard to resist preaching to or lecturing our mates. But it is better (Prov. 25:8) to develop that "meek and quiet spirit" the Bible prizes so highly (I Pet. 3:4).

Disengage yourself from situations where you feel resentment and bitterness bubbling to the surface (Prov. 17:14). God warns that a brother offended is harder to be won than a fortified city (Prov. 18:19). Allow people to "save face" whenever possible. Treat your partner as you would like to be treated in a similar circumstance (Luke 6:31).

These are basic Christian principles, simpler to read over than to actually put into practice. They do work, however, and the results are well worth the effort. Remember Paul's counsel: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18).